Getting to Know Karee Bilsky

August 12, 2014

By Deb Carneol

As the summer winds down the JCC is preparing for the upcoming school year by getting our programs ready, our classrooms set, and talking with the leaders  our families will be seeing throughout the JCC. 

We are pleased to introduce Karee Bilsky, the JCC’s new Director of Gan Ami - Mequon.  I sat down with Karee to learn more about her background, experiences, and excitement in joining the JCC and Gan Ami’s leadership team!

Deb Carneol: How long have you been a part of early childhood education and tell us more about your journey up to this point.

Karee Bilsky: I graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Early Childhood Education. After moving to Chicago, I accepted a kindergarten teaching position. After a couple of years, I changed roles and moved into a management position with the JCC in Northbrook, IL where I worked as the Children’s Director. Realizing that I missed the hands-on experience with the children, I transitioned back into the role of teacher at Gan Shalom Early Childhood Center. I spent five years on the teaching staff before moving into the role of Assistant Director. Most recently, I have been the director of Early Childhood at Congregation BJBE in Deerfield, IL.

DC: Why did you choose early childhood education, specifically?

KB: Growing up with a mom who was a teacher, allowed me to realize the overall impact of the profession. While I love all age groups, the little ones always appealed to me in a different way. I truly love the relationship building that happens in the Early Childhood world. It is not just about the child, but the families as well. Parents of young children can often feel overwhelmed, anxious and isolated. I try to provide a calm voice in those moments when life with a young child seems overwhelming. I also love nothing more than watching the development of a young child. Seeing the overall growth of a child from the time they enter the program to the time they transition out is amazing.

DC: What is your favorite part of working with the early childhood education age groups?

KB: I truly believe that we learn best through making mistakes. Young children constantly make mistakes and grow tremendously from the lessons they have learned. These sorts of experiences can be observed daily in an early childhood aged classroom. I always find myself in awe watching this development in a child. There is nothing better than observing growth and development first hand.

DC: Why did you choose to go into Jewish early childhood education?

KB: Jewish early childhood education just seemed to fit with my overall background. I spent my days as a young child at the JCC Day Camp in Fredonia. As soon as I could, I became a camper at Camp Interlaken JCC where I met my closest friends and even my husband! It is where I felt most Jewish and spiritual. As a high-schooler, I was extremely active in Wisconsin Region BBYO. Spending my free time “Jewishly” is what I loved to do. It feels natural and most comfortable to teach young children in a Jewish setting.  It is really who I am and what I am all about!

DC: You are about to start at Gan Ami Mequon, what are you looking forward to most working here in this community?

KB: I am beyond excited to be coming “home” to the Milwaukee community. I already feel like I have been welcomed back with open arms. As a child, the JCC community allowed me to grow and develop into the person that I am today. I am looking forward to giving back to the community which gave me so much. I am also looking forward to building new relationships with families, and reconnecting with old friends who now send their children to the Gan Ami program.  After spending most of my career working in synagogue based programs, I am excited be a part of a larger system that provides services and programs for children as they continue to grow.

DC: You have some deep rooted connections to the Milwaukee community!

KB: I grew up in Mequon and my husband in Bayside. My parents and in-laws both live in Mequon, which is so convenient. I am also lucky to have aunts and uncles that live in the community as well. My Jewish education began at Congregation Shalom where I became a Bat Mitzvah, was later married, and had my children named as well. My daughter, Shayna, just spent her second summer at Camp Interlaken JCC (CIL) where she made many friends from the Milwaukee community. My son, Jake, has a few years to go, but cannot wait to experience the magic of CIL too.

DC: Having second generation campers is always an exciting thing.  Can you tell us a little bit more about your family?

KB: My husband, Adam and I are so fortunate to have two amazing children. Shayna will be entering 4th grade, and is a super sporty girl! She plays travel soccer, but also enjoys playing basketball too. She is a die-hard Green Bay Packer fan too! Jake will be entering 1st grade, and he is Minecraft and Lego machine.  We have a dog, Ollie, who is a sweet cock-a-poo and loves to give kisses.

DC: What is your favorite Jewish Holiday and why?

KB: I love any holiday that brings my family together around the table for a delicious meal! If I had to pick one, I would have to say Rosh Hashanah. I love getting new “synagogue clothes” and spending the holiday with not only my family, but the larger community. Hearing the sound of the shofar always reminds me that I have another chance at becoming my best self in the New Year.

DC: When you are not at work, what can we find you doing?

KB: In between schlepping my kids around and enjoying “being a mom”, I enjoy working out, Yoga, cooking and spending time with my friends.

DC: Thank you so much for sitting down to answer these questions for our community! Is there anything else you would want our JCC and Gan Ami Families to know about you?

KB: I am honored and thrilled to begin my new journey at Gan Ami! I welcome all families to come and introduce themselves to me. I look forward to an incredible year together!

Click here to learn more about Gan Ami.